We went to the first of two refresher prenatal classes last Wednesday night. It was in the same room at the hospital where we attended a whole series of classes for first time parents last time, where three and a half years ago we learnt how to fold nappies as well as feed, bath, burp, and birth the first of our little ones. I remember feeling quite terrified by the whole package back then. I sat there not being able to believe that I was about to start spending my life looking after something so fragile and tiny when the most I had ever done was to nervously hold three different babies on three different occasions, quickly handing them back to their mother’s after a polite, token effort.
But from the last lot of classes I also remember lots of laughs, fresh faces and girls wearing full faces of makeup. Optimism, nervous chatter and that wonderful knitted womb. This time around the main thing that made an impression on me was how incredibly exhausted and disheveled everyone looked, especially the dads who seemed to be dropping off in their seats, and if not dropping off then doing that tired stretching and scratching thing with red watery eyes, and repeated glances at the clock. 9.30 is now a late night. There wasn’t a lot of excitement in the room, at best just a kind of cheerful resignation.

We listened to everyone’s birth stories which were recounted in scary detail. There was lots of gasping and moaning at the accounts of lengths of labors, number of stitches and positions of babies on the way out. While it was educational and interesting, it was also downright terrifying, especially for someone like me who had a cesarean last time and is interested in trying natural labor this time. While the midwife reassured everyone who had been through it before that a first labor is far worse than subsequent labors, she confirmed my fears that yes, I will have to go through all that first labor stuff this time around. I definitely liked it better in the last lot of classes where we were all oblivious together.

Something that did comfort me from all this was that out of the 11 couples there were three (including me) who had cesareans last time are all planning to try a natural labor this time, meanwhile all 8 of the other couples were coming back again (some after only 12 months) despite all this excruciating-agony-of-childbirth stuff and while they seemed a little jaded there was not one single person who said “Give me a voluntary cesarean, there is NO way I am doing that again”, even from the women who visibly paled at the recollection of their own horrendous stories.

So that’s something. Isn’t it?

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44 Responses

  1. What helped me not get too freaked out before labour got too crazy was that there were breaks. The labour comes and goes.
    The biggest thing was to concentrate on the breathing. I had my mother telling me in her sternest but comforting (and kinda concerned) voice, “BREATHE ADA BREATHE”

    But it’s so true.

    The war stories are odd. One or two are good for not being surprised if it gets hairy, but women give birth all over the place and you will too!

    What scares ME about having a second one is the breast feeding! I prayit goes better the next time around. I had such a crappy time, i don’t think it could be worse…

  2. Your illustration gave me a good giggle. So true, and so amusingly portrayed by you.I wish you all the best with the birth of your 2nd. I think the hardest part about the phase of pregnancy you’re in right now is just all the “not knowing how it will go.”
    I, too, have to say that, in a strange way, I enjoyed natural labor. They were the two most intense times of my life, and yet very satisfying and empowering… and AH!, the adrenalin rush that follows, and of course, the beautiful babies! I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement of my DH and others around me, though. Best advice somebody gave me: Think of it as intense rather than painful. It really worked for me.
    Rest assured, soon, you too will have another birth story of your own to tell, whatever it may be…with a new babe in your arms.

  3. That’s funny – all the women in my group that went for a “C” last time want another.
    I went natural, and despite the horror of it all – would opt for it again .. why ? I’m scared with a “C” my tummy would fall open afterwards, thus spilling my innards onto the floor … it’s a healthy sort of paranoia, i’m sure 😉

    Good luck with it – I love your illustrations and blog !

  4. Lots of laughs and nods from this household – both mum and dad understanding and reminiscing ourselves after no. 2 baby….If you contact Wattle Park House (in Box Hill) they have fabulous talks about VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and midwives that actively encourage – well worth the contact for useful resources.

  5. Hi Claire, The important thing to remember is that you know how wonderful the end result is. I wish for you a an easy labor. Good luck with your plans for a VBAC.

  6. Hi:
    Basicly my labors sucked but as it was not a ceasarn after about 20 minutes I was up and around with little to no pain from surgery. Remeber your best friend is the guy with the epidural. Even if your bond and determined to go natural no meds all the way you can change your mind at anytime. And also remeber the louder your voice the faster they staff moves. Congrat on your upcoming child. The second is always 100% easier then the first.

  7. I think women like to recount their war stories. I had a friend who insisted on telling me her birth story in extremely gory details roughly once a week while I was pregnant. I think it’s only natural to say, “this is what I went through – top that!”
    Of course, I also had a cesarean, so I may have no clue what I’m talking about. My birth story goes something like, “I sat around watching TV for 18 hours, dilated 3 centimeters and then snip-snip it was done.”

  8. Thanks Jo! I will definitely give Wattle Park House a call.

  9. Before you get bombarded with even more horror stories, let me say that I’ve had three, two were eleven pounders and that it is possible to ENJOY birthing a baby! I loved having my first boy (he WASN’T eleven pounds!!). And you recover so quickly from natural childbirth. Ten minutes after Jamie was born I already felt fantastic! I hope this is a joyous experience for you!

  10. Hi, I’m delurking to say I had a VBAC with my second child. Just make sure that your obstetrician is comfortable with this. Mine was extremely encouraging. All the best.

  11. i had a little mantra while pushing my lil llew out. ‘why didn’t i get an epidural. why didn’t i have a c section’. worked well. i am aware it was terribly painful, called labour for a reason, but 20 minutes later i was trying to convince my husband to knock me up again. no matter how it comes out, it is going to be intense and memorable, dispite the drugs – i had demoral and gravol, im afraid of the epidural) i choose not to dwell on the horrific agony to much.

  12. Don’t worry, my first was wonderful my second horrible but I’d have gone back for a third if someone could have guaranteed me a girl. No matter how painful or uncomfortable it is all the pain fades into the past when you hold that brand new innocent small precious gift. Enjoy every minute.

  13. I commend you for wanting to go natural this time around. It seems like so many women I know are opting for c-sections, which I just don’t understand why you would “choose” a major surgery. My labor was totally drug free, and I have never regretted it.

  14. long time lurker coming out of hiding just to say:
    Don’t worry. Some of us have had fantastic, natural labors and I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I agree with Kristy. You can enjoy it. And I wouldn’t call it “pain”. It can happen to you too.

  15. oh, that war story stuff makes me so sad–it’s quite terrifying to hear, isn’t it? And labor just doesn’t have to be terrifying. It really can be so lovely. I hope that you have the birth that you’re hoping and wishing for Claire–whatever that looks like to you. 😉

  16. Wishing you a healthy baby and as comfortable a labor as you can manage. Did mine without the epidural, but I admit to having a little Fentynyl after about an hour’s pushing. When the doc asked if I wanted them to get the suction-vac, I rallied and popped her out!
    You can do it. Whatever’s best for you and the babe.

  17. Made me giggle! I love your ‘random dad-same dad’ illo. So true. That could be my husband after only 16months of looking after our little poppet. I wonder what the next dad sample will look like after babe no2!?Wishing you all the best for your upcoming arrival. I’ll be keenly reading your updates 🙂

  18. I always think that whatever way you do it, we are all hoping for the same end result – a healthy baby.

  19. says:

    Dear Claire,
    I am a mother of 3, all born naturally. Just before my last child was due, I watched a short clip on tv about hypnobirth — a method that teaches women to go into deep relaxation. Fear and tension in anticipation of pain only intensifies it. But by getting yourself go into deep relaxation you can tap into your bodies own defenses against pain (the release of adrenalin etc).

    There are no hypnobirth classes here in Manila and no literature was available either but by just having the concept in mind, I made a conscious effort not to fear labor, told myself to relax and it made a huge difference. If you want to read more about hypnobirthing, here’s a link to an article in TIME Magazine.
    I read somewhere that hynobirth classes are offered in Australia.

    Good luck!

  20. Maryellen that is too funny.
    Claire just remember that no matter how bad it seems at the time it is all worth it.

    My 16hr labour (induced, drugs, yay) was yukky but oh my god when I finally pushed her out I felt so blessed and relieved and in love. What a wonderful moment.

    Also remember that it doesn’t matter how they come out, as long as they come out safely.

    Good luck Claire!

  21. I probably should mention that I had a wonderful experience giving birth to Amelia – even though it was in surgery. I was awake for the whole thing and Phil was there too, and it went so quickly, the staff were all kind and amazing and when Amelia finally appeared it was incredible. Recovery was hard, but not impossible – but this time around with an energetic older sister to take care of as well as a baby day and night I want to give myself the best possible chance to recover quickly. That being said, my whole thing from the beginning has been “whatever is safe for us both” and if I have to have another cesarean then so be it. Fingers crossed.

  22. says:

    Hey Claire..your thoughts on whatever will happen..sounds great. I also recommend denial. It worked well for me. Walking to the delivery room to be induced two weeks overdue (for both my kids)..saying to my husband..”how bad could it be??” one labour was 8 hours and the 2nd was 4.5 hours!! Im sure that not worrying about it helped me on the days. I really wish you all the best of luck!!

  23. I have done it both ways and I found recovery from a Caeser hard for the first few days but then not that much different (except for no lifting). Even though it’s truly awful, I hope you get to experience labour if that’s what you want. I’m no sadist but I think it’s an experience many women want to have, even if just to say “God, that was awful”.
    In labour with Nell I told Soy I would NEVER be doing that again. He thought I meant having another baby, but I really meant labour. If we have another (if choice and luck are on our side) then I will be the one opting for a voluntary caeser. Glad to hear I am in the minority though.

  24. Oh that’s good to hear Elissa – I really am worried about the recovery – I think I blame a lot of the misery I felt in early weeks last time on the surgery. Perhaps it was just the baby-blues and feeling out of control after all. I am definitely not one that feels I absolutely MUST experience labor at all costs – I would far rather not, but then again… you get a little baby at the end so either way … either way… um… there’s all that sleeplessness to look forward to! 🙂

  25. Claire, have you considered hiring a Doula to support you in labour and/or through the immediate postpartum period? A Doula in labour can help raise your chances of a successful VBAC and fast recovery and a Postpartum Doula can help with any breastfeeding issues before they become nightmares and help take care of your older girl so that you and the new baby get a little time together (or so you can get a shower in or feed yourself). I higly recommend Doulas.

  26. first time labour as an mom is probably somewhere in between first time and second time birthing. I find that the second time the fact I knew I could keep a baby a live was very reassuring.. It did take away a lot of the stress I had the first time round.. Go girl..

  27. I dont know what do I say.Hope you face all the birth giving pain with smile.

  28. Don’t let it scare you. I had an emergency caesarean first time round despite wanting a natural birth. Second time round I went in very open minded but secretly wanted a natural birth mush to the disdain of the doctors who suspected it wouldn’t be possible. On 9th August I had another beautiful little boy – this time it all went to plan and he popped out with just the help of a little gas and air. I only have the most fantastic, loved-up memories of sunny days and a beautiful problem free birth.
    It even makes me think that I would consider another even though my current lack of sleep renders me incapable of making the most dimple of decisions!


  29. Motherhood is so life changing that we all want to share our stories. 🙂 While I never had a C-section, I did have all three of my kids naturally and found a lot of the tips/techniques that worked better than our Lamaze class came out of the Bradley method book, Husband Coached Childbirth. I wish you the best on your VBAC; I know a few friends of mine that have successfully done it! Seek out the encouraging stories and ignore the horrifying ones!

  30. while i haven’t experienced it myself, i had to delurk just to tell you that although my mom fainted for the first time in her life giving birth to me, and she couldn’t walk at all for a week, she was completely fine after that, and had my little brother naturally, too. and the second time round definitely was easier for her.

  31. says:

    It doesnt matter how they come into the world, just that they come safely. Women should never judge or be judged when it comes time to make decisions about their own uterus. I have no doubt your birth will be fabulous and worth it! Good luck! Keep drawing!

  32. DON’T LISTEN TO HORROR STORIES!!! Giving birth doesn’t have to be horrifying, really it doesn’t. It can be an empowering, beautiful experience.
    Best of luck!

    (check out–I thought I’d give it a try with my 3rd baby and it was truly transformative, even though I was very skeptical at first.)

  33. C-section here too, but I had mine both at once to get it over with 😉

  34. I have to offer a second mention of Hypnobirthing. I didn’t have an opportunity to take a class, but the book, Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan is brilliant! I had an amazing labor and deliver. Maybe you could order with your amazon certificate. (Though My So-Called Life is pretty fantastic too!) I’d be glad to tell you more about my experience, if you like.

  35. says:

    Claire, another voice to add to the chorus that I hope, whatever happens, it’s a good experience for you and that your recovery is a good one. I had an emergency ceasar for my first child and now that I am pregnant with my second, I hope that natural birth would be an option for me. My sister and a friend each had VBAC and reported that while the pain was more immediate and intense with the vaginal birth, the recovery time was nothing as opposed to a ceasarian.
    I like the idea of second-child prenatal classes – it will be nearly 5 years between my first and my second (if all goes to plan – here’s hoping!) and I could use a bit of an update on my skills, but it doesn’t seem that my hospital offers that course. (I’m in NSW, if anyone knows of one!)

  36. Hi, another lurker …It seems often that ladies relish in recounting their ‘war story’ onto many a poor pregnant gal who would already be carrying the fear of God about whether they’re going to cope with the whole birth thing, bless ’em, I know they all mean well … I guess my advice/harp has always been that it is a positive pain, it doesn’t seem to be like braking an arm or whatever … I’d like to think I know pain reasonably well having had 3 knee reconstructons and numerous other surgery … bloody hate hospitals hehe anyhoo, the thing is, the baby is gonna come oot one way or another, in the end we don’t really have any choice in that bit of reality 😉 Enjoy the break in hospital I say, eat, drink and be merry, it’s like a little holiday where people cook for you, babysit if you need a good rest, even change the nappies If you want!

  37. says:

    The midwife at our prenatal at the class was very proud that she’d crocheted a placenta.
    There weren’t any refresher classes here, and I probably wouldn’t have gone as I was in denial 2nd time round.

    But, hey, it happens – there’s good and bad, everyone’s different, so no advice fromme … only best wishes that it goes how you hope!

  38. I completely understand your dilemma. I had an emergency c-section with my first after labouring for about 5 hours. My second is due in october and I’ve asked my doctor for a third option, but so far not so good! If we come up with anything I’ll let you know! All the best 🙂

  39. Butting in here to pick up on a different thread… sorry… but Claire if you do end up rewatching House of Elliot please let me know how it holds up. I saw that it was out on DVD and was so excited, but then began to fear that it wouldn’t still be so lovely all these many years later. I so very much adored that show back in the day, and can’t bear the thought of undoing the spell.

  40. Are water births very common in Australia? Here in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. I’ve met three women who had one and they all recommended it. As you say, whatever’s safest for you both is best. Take care.

  41. says:

    I have two…both natural, the second was a homebirth…fantastic! The first labor was very, very long, the second 3 hours! Try not to take in all the negative stories, they can have an effect. All the bestJasmine

  42. Hi Claire, Very best of luck with a VBAC. Having had an emergency c with daughter no. 1 (pre-eclampsia at 37 weeks), I desperately wanted a VBAC for no. 2, and sure enough went into labour at 40 + 1 (right on target), only to labour unproductively for 30 hrs. After 15 hrs of 3-min contractions for a whopping 3cms dilation, with only gas for pain relief, the hospital suggested a c-section as daughter no. 2’s heartrate was showing signs of distress. So I didn’t get to deliver her vaginally after all but by God I got to experience labour!! I still feel a bit sad about it really but she was huge, I am little, and she just wasn’t coming out. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid so she was clearly getting a bit worried about the whole business.
    My advice to you is, plan AS IF you are going to end up with a second c – set up all your support / help networks on this assumption – and then if you get your VBAC, it’s an added bonus. I didn’t do this, so sure was I that my VBAC would succeed, and found myself at 3 weeks postpartum with a 22-month-old, an infant and a whapping great infected incision wound to contend with by my lonesome. Fortunately my husband, after two weeks of me dragging myself around, ended up hiring a local uni student to come 10 hours a week for 3 months to play with my oldest, watch the baby etc while I got some much-needed rest. We spent our baby bonus on it but it was so worth it.

    Sorry, I’m rabbiting. This is me shutting up now

  43. Ok, you have officially freaked me out. I don’t have any kids, not sure if I can do it at all now. *shudder*
    I’ll look into surrogacy.

  44. says:

    I have had 2 naturally with no drugs. I just concentrated on relaxing. I thought of the pain as something positive, I imagined each as a wave on the sea, and I was body surfing towards the beach, where my late Father was holding my baby ready to hand her to me. No I’m not a crazy hippy chick, just a normal Mum! It worked. 10 1/2 hours first baby, 4 hours second baby. Really clearly conc on relaxing all your body muscles during contractions. Don’t tense against the pain. You save so much energy. Don’t clench your teeth, it also tends to automatically clenches your pelvic floor closed! I LOVED both my births. As soon as somebody tried to tell me their horror birth story I just employed rudeness, put up my hand and said ‘NO, can’t hear it!’, they do then to carry on even then so ‘blah blah blah la la la’ very louldy with hands over your ears tends to do the trick!!!!

    Enjoy x